What I don’t want for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is in two days. In case my family is still deciding what to get me, I thought I’d help them out by narrowing the field.

We’ll begin with gifts I don’t want to receive:

  • I’ll pass on the $3,700 gold-plated Walkman that Sony has released. (My family would be unlikely to give me anything that plays music anyway since I listen mainly to classical symphonies they consider “boring.”)
  • I’ll also decline a bobblehead or socks with my face on them. (It’s hard to think of a worse way to spend money.)
  • I won’t need tickets to Sunday’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals. (The Golden State Warriors clinched the series last night.)

A second category would include gifts I would like but would be surprised to receive, such as tickets to see the Texas Rangers in this year’s World Series (they are currently four games out of the playoffs even after last night’s come-from-behind victory) or the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl LVII (by my count, twenty NFL teams have played in the Super Bowl since the Cowboys’ last appearance in 1996).

A third category would include gifts no one could give me, such as the Statue of Liberty, which arrived dismantled in New York harbor on this day in 1885, and the state of California, which was claimed by Sir Francis Drake for England on this day in 1579.

Gifts only God can give

The gifts I need most as a father are gifts only God can give.

First on the list, of course, is salvation: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Second is the gift of the Spirit: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Third, we could cite the gifts of the Spirit listed in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12.

Fourth would be the “fruit of the Spirit” described in Galatians 5. I could go on and on.

However, a gift I especially need as a father is the capacity to love my family well and to model godly character for them. This is the theological experience called “sanctification,” literally “being made holy.”

The gift of holiness

Here we find a balance.

On one hand, sanctification is the work of the sovereign God. Jesus prayed for his disciples that his Father would “sanctify them in the truth” (John 17:17). Paul likewise prayed for his readers, “May the God of peace sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

On the other hand, I have a role to play: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). I am called to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Scripture tells me to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Here’s how this divine–human partnership works: as I work, God works. When I pray, read Scripture, worship, confess my sins, spend time in solitude with the Lord, and practice the other spiritual disciplines, I position myself to experience what his grace wants to give. When I do what I am called to do, he then does in and through me what only he can do.

In other words, to be the father I aspire to be, I must be as close to my Father as I can be. He will then mold me into the character of his Son (Romans 8:29) and love my family well through me.

Oswald Chambers observed: “The one marvelous secret of a holy life is not in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfections of Jesus manifest themselves in my mortal flesh. Sanctification is ‘Christ in you.’” He added, “Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy; it is drawing from Jesus the holiness that was manifested in him, and he manifests it in me.”

Whether you are a father or not, will you experience this “marvelous secret of a holy life” today?